Over the past five weeks I have collected book lists from people in diverse sections of the art world. The series of articles started with Kendra Deen, a photographer with an eye for capturing pure, joyous moments. Next, Caitlyn Chisamore’s book selection was featured. She takes her emotional portrait painting inspiration by art books, and many spiritual life books as well. Third in the series was Alex Leggett, a musician with a folk-sound and a warm-hearted soul. Last week I ended the series with writer, and self-published author, Cody Yeo. His book choices were coming of age stories, mixed with reads you won’t find on the Heather’s Picks reading list.
Altogether, their books are a collection of inspiring material that shaped each of them as individuals, and as artists. When I wrapped up the last article last week, I thought about all the books that inspire me in life, and in writing, which is my passion, art form, and most recently my career. Today, I decided to officially say goodbye to this series by giving you my own eight most inspiring reads.
My greatest hope is to pass on my love for reading, and thirst for knowledge to my daughter. Captured best in the image below; she is already trying to swipe some of my favs!
1. A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard
Jaycee’s story is a strange one to pull information from, I’ll be the first to admit. It was a hard book to read. I cried, I threw the book, and more than once I pondered quitting. Jaycee was kidnapped, and held captive for 18 years. Her life story is unlike mine in so many ways that even with extreme empathy, I simply cannot fathom what it was like for her. When I wanted to quit reading, I remembered that not only did she live through this trauma once, she did it again in order to tell her story. The least I could do was finish the book. Facing her trauma was a tremendous act of bravery. Jaycee is my hero.
2. The Bosnia List by Kenan Trebincevic & Susan Shapiro
I was given this book by a boss, turned friend. Her husband is Bosnian and the chance to learn more about his country of origin was the reason I turned the first page. I finished the book because the story was both heart-wrenching and heart-warming. A combo that sucks me in—every time! The Bosnia List is memoir, about a young Muslim boy in Brcko and his family. Kenan was 11 when war broke out in former Yugoslavia. He and his family narrowly escaped the ethnic cleansing and bombings that swept his nation. He resettled in the United States, and after twenty years, reluctantly returned with his father. He goes on this trip filled with anger, confronting old neighbors, and visiting refugee camps, but he returns with a whole other feeling: a feeling of closure. The most important thing I take from reading is learning about other people, and lives that are far different from my own. Diversity is the key to acceptance, my friends.
3. The Cellist Of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Also based on same 90’s siege as The Bosnia List, The Cellist of Sarajevo is not so much about the war itself, but about the people in it. It follows three civilians through the tragic events that touched their lives. Their connection is only that a man sits and plays where 22 people lost their lives, in the middle of a war torn city. He plays his cello for 22 days straight, while the war wages on around him. This fictional story is a true display of the human spirit. The characters and the cellists’ act of solidarity won my heart.
4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This book is a mix between a coming of age story and a mystery. Theo is a boy who loses his mother in a museum bombing while they are spending time together. When he escapes the wreckage he takes with him a painting. The story follows Theo through different guardians, and years, as he deals with loss and matures. He meets Boris as a teenager, a Ukrainian smart-mouth and smooth talker. Theo and Boris cope with their lives by using drugs and alcohol. To pinpoint exactly why I love this book is hard. It’s probably the characters, and their detailed development. Tartt is amazing at using description without overusing. It may also be that no character is painted as perfect, or remotely close to that, but you love all of them anyway. It could be that Boris is hilarious. Whatever the reason, I’ll read this one every ten years for the rest of my life.
5. Lord Of The Flies by William Golding
During high school I spent more time chasing boys, and chatting on ICQ than I read books. Between book reports, and my lack of Shakespearean love, reading always felt like a chore. In grade ten I made the switch to applied English. No more Shakespeare! Lord of the Flies was the book I read in high school that I actually enjoyed. It started me down the path of reading for pleasure. Reading dystopian books is a serious love of mine, and these stranded boys started it all. Fighting for their lives and failing at government, they were the 1954 Hunger Games.
6. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Yet another high school read, Animal Farm was not my first introduction to communism, but it laid out government in a way that was understandable. Leave it to Orwell’s fiction to teach a terrifying concept of humanity. I learned more about the nature of humans from this book than any history class.
7. Little Princes by Conor Grennan
I added this book recently to a list of books about human trafficking. While this Little Princes is 100% a vital read in order to understand the human trafficking crisis in Nepal, I loved this book for a few other reasons. Grennan’s honest view of traveling for a year as a young man was so inspiring. He is proof that a feeling of wonder can co-exist with feeling lost. Conor found his place in the world when he thought he was just making himself look good to his parents and peers. I would recommend this book to any youth who feels the need to explore the world, and anyone who feels lost. It’s proof that anyone can make a difference.
8. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
I’m an unorganized person who struggles for organization daily. Gretchen Rubin is the opposite. She organized her year of pursuit of happiness into months and subcategories I can only dream of. The Happiness Project was her challenge to be happier in her life. She tackled things both big and small, including money and marriage. Her plan was what made me read the book, and her organization is what made me love it. Improving the quality of my life is a huge priority, and this book has helped me again and again to achieve that goal.
These books form my personality, my life choices, as well as my writing style. There are dozens more that inspire me, but this is the best start.
What books do you love?
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Featured image via Author’s Own